W–Two Worlds: Episode 8
I… was going to write words, and they were going to make sense, and they were going to be about W. Perhaps they would’ve been words about the love story, or about the fantasy-within-a-fantasy wish-fulfillment of this heightened world, or about my feelings, because I have a lot of them while watching this show. But then I watched this episode, and then my brain exploded.
Or is it just the beginning?
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Terror sets in as Kang Chul is threatened by No-Face Killer, who has somehow gotten into the real world and is speaking to Chul via chyrons appearing out of thin air. No-Face wants to know how Chul got back into the manhwa world, and notes menacingly that Chul has a new family now.
Yeon-joo stirs awake just as No-Face hangs up on Chul, and she can tell that something’s wrong. But Chul tucks his gun away and just asks her how the last frame of Dad’s manhwa changed from “The End” to “To be continued.” Yeon-joo says she doesn’t know how or why—it just changed one day, and she assumed that there was a reason the story couldn’t end there.
They’re interrupted by the housekeeper, who has a whole array of party dresses lined up for Yeon-joo to choose from. Chul tells her that he heard she had a hard time letting go of Romantic Option One—the Cinderella party—and figured he’d just give her both. (Ahem, what about Option Four?)
He’s been invited to a party at the Blue House and tells her to pick a dress, adding helpfully, “For your information, the more skin it shows, the more I like it.” Am I blushing? Stop that, face! The attendants point out the dress with the lowest neckline, and Yeon-joo laughs nervously and says they shouldn’t take Chul seriously.
Do-yoon calls after trying to trace the phone calls from No-Face, but he’s come up empty. Chul tells him to keep trying, and sits down at his desk to start a new case report for his crime show W. He writes that he’s going to throw away all prior case files and formulate a new hypothesis from here on out: There is a true culprit.
Chul thinks back to the moment when No-Face killed his family and discarded the gun in the alley, and as we see Dad’s hand drawing the frame, Chul narrates that god did not give him physical matter, and so the killer has none—he has no face, and no identity. He writes: “He was born solely to kill my family. So he feels no guilt over murder. He feels no sadness, and of course no pleasure. Because he has no character.”
Chul writes that the killer was merely a tool to make him dedicate his life to fighting crime, and will appear whenever he’s needed in the story, and disappear when he’s not. Chul concludes: “In any space, in any form, without needing any context, according to god’s whims… he can appear at any time and kill.” Well, shit.
Yeon-joo chooses the lacy pink dress and tiptoes out into the living room, wondering if this will be appropriate for such a fancy event. She worries that there will be dancing and twirls across the room by herself, giving the bodyguards something to chuckle over.
She shows Chul the dress and asks if it looks okay, but when she’s met with a silent stare because he’s still so lost in thought over No-Face and his threat to kill her, she assumes that she looks weird and shuffles back out to go change.
Chul finally says, “Go back,” and she points out that she’s already heading back to the dressing room. But he meant back home to her world because it’s dangerous here, and asks if there isn’t some way for her to go home. She doesn’t know how—it’s not like she can control the coming and going—and asks what’s gotten into him.
Without warning, a bullet suddenly flies through the window past Chul. He whips his head around to see where the shot came from, and when he looks back at Yeon-joo, she’s already been shot in the forehead, just like his family.
She falls to the ground in slow-motion as Chul watches, horrified. He peers over his desk to see her body on the floor, except when he does, she isn’t there. He draws in a breath. Did she return to her world?
But he’s shocked when Yeon-joo asks what’s wrong. Oh, did he imagine the whole thing? Gah, stop that! He just rushes over to her and wraps his arms around her in an embrace, relieved that she’s okay. He kisses her on the forehead tenderly, and just holds her for a good long while.
They take a limo to the party, and Chul reminds Yeon-joo to smile for the cameras as they exit. She’s so nervous that she gulps down champagne and decides that maybe she can’t do this after all, but he takes her hand and says to just follow his lead.
So she plasters a nervous smile on her face as they walk the red carpet, but once they’re inside, she gets lost in the real Cinderella moment as he kisses her hand and leads her to the dance floor. Wait a minute, is this a fantasy too? Because for someone who was so worried about the dancing, she seems to suddenly know what to do.
They glide around the dance floor, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes as he twirls her around and around. Oh, but I spoke too soon—at the final dip, Yeon-joo’s foot slips and she goes crashing to the ground…
…And she falls out of bed as she wakes up from her dream. Ha, was she clumsy in her own fantasy? (Seriously though, now I’m confused about what did happen and didn’t happen, because that was one too many fantasies.)
The bodyguard comes running in and awkwardly offers to help her up from the floor, and Chul rushes in with gun in hand. He wonders how she fell out of bed, and Yeon-joo says sheepishly that she was having a very sweet dream.
She asks if all the bodyguards are necessary, and points out that No-Face can’t harm her no matter what he threatened, because she’s invincible in this world. Chul says that there’s no rule in the universe that doesn’t have variables, so until they can locate No-Face, they’re housebound.
Yeon-joo begins to pout that she just got out of prison only to end up imprisoned here, and rattles off a string of complaints, like the fact that he canceled on the party they were going to, and he told her to mark the sweet romantic things she wanted to do in his book, and promised to do ten a day…
Chul just finds the pouting adorable and offers to do anything in that book that can be done inside the house. I can think of a few. He leads her by the hand into the kitchen, with two giant bodyguards clipping at their heels the whole way.
Once they get there though, Chul grimaces and admits that he only knows how to cook one thing: ramyun. Yeah, we know, you learned that in high school. After watching him look for ramyun packets in the oven, Yeon-joo realizes that Chul doesn’t know his way around the kitchen at all and takes over. She tells him to learn how to cook something for real and make it up to her then.
He seems happy to be absolved of cooking duties for the time being and chitchats while Yeon-joo cooks, wondering about something he can’t understand—why her father is like that. Uh, you’re gonna have to be more specific—Dad’s got a lot of things wrong with him.
Chul assumes that No-Face acts according to Dad’s orders, and he doesn’t get why Dad would give the command for No-Face to kill his own daughter. Yeon-joo says that Dad wouldn’t do that, and besides, he quit drawing for good.
As she talks, she accidentally slices the tip of her finger as she cuts the green onions, and the bodyguards overreact and run to fetch the nurse on Chul’s orders. Yeon-joo doesn’t see the need for that much medical attention, and Chul just smiles and tends to the cut.
He’s the first to realize that something is wrong, though, and he looks at her bleeding finger again in alarm. “Why are you bleeding? You’re not supposed to bleed…” he says, eyes wide. She looks down at her finger, and a new terror starts to dawn on Chul’s face: “This… means that you’ll die if you’re shot with a gun.” Craaaap.
As soon as he says it, Yeon-joo looks down at the corner of the screen, where the “To be continued” chyron is being written. She doesn’t even have a chance to say anything before she vanishes, and Chul slumps down, fraught with worry.
Yeon-joo appears back in her old bedroom in Dad’s house, her finger still bleeding. She bandages the wound and goes to read the latest issue of the webtoon, and sees for herself that No-Face threatened to put a bullet in her forehead, and that Chul imagined it happening. She tries calling Dad, but there’s no answer.
Back in Chul’s world, he paces back and forth wondering why the rules have changed—Dad and Yeon-joo were once invincible in his world, but now everything is different, and he has no idea why. He waits in the kitchen all night, but Yeon-joo doesn’t return.
So-hee calls him the next morning, drunk and crying. She wonders if Yeon-joo is sleeping next to him right now and asks if he really got married, because it hasn’t really hit her yet that this is real. She knows it’s her own fault for waiting around and thinking that it would lead to them being together in the end, but she cries that everyone else thought so too. Lol, an entire fandom, in fact.
So-hee: “What am I? What was I to you?” She swigs another glass of wine, when she suddenly notices her hand flickering in and out. Oh no, she’s disappearing! Chul recalls Do-yoon describing this the other night, and on the phone he overhears So-hee scream and drop her glass, when she looks in the mirror and sees her reflection flicker into a manhwa drawing.
Chul drives over to her, racking his brain the whole way, trying to make sense of what’s happening. He remembers opening the manhwa back in the real world and seeing the cast of main characters on the front page—Kang Chul, So-hee, Do-yoon, No-Face Killer, Assemblyman Han, and Ajusshi—all created for a purpose in the story.
In flashback, we see Ajusshi’s hand start to fade after Kang Chul told him that he was going to get rid of the crime show and stop chasing the killer. And in the present, So-hee’s entire body starts to look translucent. Chul realizes: “When that [character’s] purpose disappears, they cease to exist… in this world, forever?”
And then it occurs to him that the opposite will be true too: “When a character’s purpose becomes certain, they’re fixed as main characters… by force?” He’s thinking of Yeon-joo, of course, and back in her world, she’s come to more or less the same conclusion: “Have I become an actual manhwa character? Because I married the hero?” Really, are they having the same train of the thought at the exact same time? The exposition in this scene is so unnatural.
Chul wonders why No-Face didn’t disappear then, and that’s when he realizes that the killer could be like him—finding a purpose to exist on his own. “Did he become self-aware? Like me?” he wonders.
And to confirm it, we see No-Face walking around in Chul’s world after he’d stopped time and left through the portal. No-Face marched past the frozen people and leapt through the portal too, ending up on the same rooftop where Chul had first arrived in Yeon-joo’s world. Chul wonders in horror, “The culprit… is in the outside world?”
That’s exactly where he is, of course, and we see No-Face when he first arrived in the real world, when he’d bumped into a drunken man in the street. The really freaky part? Whenever No-Face talked, chyrons appeared on the screen, even in the real world. WTF. How? Why? Is this world even real?
No-Face asked where this was and where Kang Chul was, and then he’d come across a magazine in a store window, lamenting the end of Kang Chul’s manhwa without revealing the killer’s identity. No-Face crushed the window and grabbed the magazine, and Chul narrates that he was enraged: “Because the only one who desired to know the culprit’s identity more than me… was the culprit himself.”
No-Face stood on the bridge where Chul had jumped, and asked angrily how Kang Chul could die like this without finding him, when he waited ten years. I guess when you put it like that, yours was the saddest existence of all.
Chul narrates that No-Face was the one who stopped the manhwa from ending, because he couldn’t stand for it to end that way. The worst part is that now No-Face is stuck there where Yeon-joo is, not knowing how to get back to the manhwa world.
Yeon-joo worries that Chul is worrying about her, and she’s surprised when someone calls the workshop early in the morning. At first no one speaks, but then No-Face’s scary voice asks as the words appear before her, “You… came back? You’re Oh Sung-moo’s daughter, aren’t you? You’re Oh Yeon-joo, the woman who married Kang Chul, aren’t you?” Ack!
I don’t know why, but the image of No-Face using a cell phone like a real person just creeps me out. He’s standing in the publisher’s office as he makes the call from an assistant’s phone, and he memorizes Dad’s address before vanishing into thin air. More people arrive at the office, not realizing that the assistant has been strangled to death at her desk.
Thinking quickly, Yeon-joo grabs a drawing tablet and laptop and drags Su-bong out of bed. She has to yank his sleepy ass to the car and yell for him to just drive them away from the house, which he fiiinally does just in time for No-Face to appear in Dad’s workshop. Okay, I officially hate that he can teleport. How are you supposed to run away from that?
Su-bong sighs that he’s tired of things happening to them, and says he’d no longer be surprised by anything. Yeon-joo is still flailing and tells him not to answer any phone calls because the killer is looking for her, and the second she says it, they round the corner and see No-Face standing in their path.
She tries to tell Su-bong to reverse, but he doesn’t really register what’s happening until they’ve stopped just a few feet away. No-Face raises his gun, and Su-bong stammers, “That… that’s a g-gun. A gun. A gun. That’s a gun! NOONA, THAT’S A GUN!”
Yeon-joo screams at him to back up, so he puts the car in reverse and guns it… only to hit a lamppost and bring them to a full stop. The killer doesn’t even move, and just pulls the trigger.
The bullet travels in slow-motion, headed straight for Yeon-joo’s forehead. It flies through the windshield and comes right at her…
…But before it can make contact, Yeon-joo vanishes and the bullet pierces the seat’s headrest. Oh phew.
She reappears in the passenger seat of Chul’s car, and he’s so busy calling to see if Yeon-joo came home that he doesn’t notice she’s sitting next to him until she speaks. He asks if she’s okay, and in between gasping breaths, she says that No-Face just tried to kill her.
He kisses her on the forehead and pulls her into a hug, and once she’s calmed down a little, Yeon-joo worries about having left Su-bong back there with the killer.
Back in said car, Su-bong pleads for dear life, promising to live kindly if he’s spared. He’s so busy being terrified that he doesn’t notice No-Face coming closer and vanishing once he sees that Yeon-joo is gone. Well, at least he’s a killer with a singular purpose. How’s that for a silver lining?
Chul guesses as much and thinks that Su-bong will be okay, but Yeon-joo worries that the killer will seek her out at Mom’s house too. Back in her world, Su-bong flees from the car as soon as he sees that Yeon-joo has vanished, and he runs into her mother, who’s just arrived in the neighborhood to look for Yeon-joo. Su-bong gets in the car and begs her to drive them in the other direction, away from Dad’s.
No-Face returns to Dad’s workshop and finds a receipt for Dad’s flight to New Zealand. Yikes, he’s not going to teleport there, is he? On the flight, one of Dad’s fans approaches him for an autograph and asks about the sequel, but Dad doesn’t answer his questions.
Just before landing, Dad goes to the bathroom on the plane, where No-Face’s voice and matching chyrons suddenly appear, asking, “Who am I? Where is Kang Chul? Who am I? Why won’t you tell me who I am?” The villain is having an existential crisis?!
Dad reaches for the door handle, but then No-Face’s hand suddenly flashes into being and grabs Dad’s hand first. Dad looks over his shoulder in terror…
From outside, a flight attendant hears a violent scuffle inside the restroom, but no one answers when she knocks. The noise goes on for a while, and then everything goes silent, and the door clicks open. Ohmygod, did he take Dad?
In the manhwa world, Yeon-joo realizes that they’ve arrived outside So-hee’s apartment. Chul tries the door but there’s no answer and he doesn’t know her lock code. He asks if maybe Yeon-joo’s seen it in the manhwa, and Yeon-joo thinks back to a conversation where she and the other girls in Dad’s workshop teased Su-bong for being in love with So-hee. Um, is he trying to feed a paper cutout So-hee doll?
Su-bong had bragged about how he made her apartment number his birthday and her lock code his phone number, and voila—that code still works and gets them inside. Chul asks Yeon-joo to stay near the door and heads in by himself, where he finds the floor littered with glass shards and So-hee curled up and crying, looking almost completely translucent now.
So-hee asks what’s happening to her and cries that she’s dying, and Yeon-joo overhears her and puts two and two together, based on what she saw in the webtoon about Do-yoon seeing So-hee’s hands vanish.
Chul tries delicately to act like nothing is happening, and he says that she’s just had too much to drink and will be fine. That calms her down for a second, but when he takes her arm, she sees the wedding ring on his finger and starts to flicker again. She cries that she thought she’d marry him someday and asks again, “What am I?”
The more she asks that, the faster she vanishes, so Chul looks her in the eye and says that his marriage is all fake and it means nothing. Agh, I know you’re doing it to save So-hee, but that hurt.
Chul assures her that it’s not a real marriage and says, “You’re important to me. You’re the person closest to me. I need you for the rest of my life.” So-hee asks in a small voice, “You need me?” And with that, she becomes solid again.
Chul wipes her tears and hugs her, and promises that after she gets some sleep, everything will be fine. Then he looks over at Yeon-joo, who’s been standing there the whole time.
While So-hee sleeps, Yeon-joo patches up her scrapes, and Chul thinks back to a mundane memory of being in high school and telling So-hee that he was going to switch majors, and bragging about how he was a genius so he’d be good at anything. Aw, they were so cute.
Yeon-joo says that she’d forgotten for a moment that So-hee was the heroine of this manhwa: “This is because of me, isn’t it?” Chul replies honestly, “It’s because of the wretched fate your father created. The character’s predetermined setup, her reason for existing. It’s cruel, isn’t it? How can there be only one reason you were born and exist? We’re people too.”
Yeon-joo cries on the way back, murmuring aloud that it’s all a mess, and this isn’t the sequel she wanted at all. Chul sees her crying and decides to write a letter to Yeon-joo’s father, which he starts typing into his phone.
As they ride the elevator up to his suite, Chul notices Yeon-joo’s untied shoelace and bends down to retie it, remembering that it was one of the romantic things in their book. She asks if now is really the time to do their homework, and he takes her hand and decides to go up to the roof.
Yeon-joo remembers meeting here for the first time, and she flips her hair and calls him lucky for having met such a good doctor in his time of need. He agrees that he was lucky, and then he withdraws his hand before asking her to draw something for him when she returns to her world.
He asks her to draw him waking up from a dream—to make it so that everything from meeting her on the roof that night until now is all one long dream. What, no! He says that it’s the only solution he can think of—to return to the time before he ever thought of Yeon-joo as the key to his life, to before he discovered that he was a manhwa character, before the killer followed him out into the real world, and his friends started disappearing.
The most important thing, Chul says, is that Yeon-joo can’t die, because he can’t bear to witness that. He says that if they can return to before he knew her, then he won’t think of her and keep pulling her back into this world. But! She’ll remember you! That’s so cruel!
Chul says that he didn’t know how to go on living before, but now he knows: “I should just live according to my fate, and if my reason for existing is to forever chase a culprit that can never be caught, then I have to do that.” Noooo!
He asks what Yeon-joo thinks, and whether she understands him. She nods slowly and finally lifts her head, her eyes brimming with tears. He asks her to draw him waking up from the dream and not remembering any of it, and hands her a flash drive with his letter to her father on it.
He makes her promise to draw it right away, because they don’t know when No-Face will appear again. She promises in a shaky voice, and Chul begins to step away from her, saying that the one thing he regrets is that they only got to do four of the things on her sweet romance list, when he had at least a hundred things he wanted to do for her.
He steps farther and farther away while saying, “I want to hold you one more time, but I can’t do that either, because I’ll be reluctant to let go.” She asks where he’s going, and he gets to the edge of the roof and says they don’t have time and this is the only way to make sure she returns home.
He tells her, “Forget me now. I’m just a character in a manhwa. If you miss me, you can go to the bookstore and see me there. Be well.” He gives her a tiny smile, and then leans back, letting himself just fall off the ledge. Yeon-joo gasps, and then we fade to black.
Tears spill down Kang Chul’s face as he wakes up in the hospital, all the way back to the morning after his stabbing attack. So-hee comes in to say that she hasn’t found anything in the CCTV footage, and asks if he cried.
Chul wipes his eyes and looks curiously at the tears on his fingers, and says it feels like he dreamt something, but can’t remember what.
And back in her world, Yeon-joo sits in the passenger seat of Su-bong’s car, still with the bullet hole in the windshield, hurriedly drawing the webtoon just like Chul asked. She finishes the frame she needs to in order to make it all a dream, and then bursts into tears when she looks down at the wedding ring on her finger.
Chul looks down at his own hand curiously, having forgotten Yeon-joo entirely.
Excuse me while I go dig myself a dark hole to go cry in for the next twelve hours. I can’t believe we just reset Kang Chul’s whole world back to zero. He’ll never know that he loved her! And she has to carry all their happy memories all by herself! You guys, when they did this to Buffy and Angel, I cried for DAYS. Is this writer trying to kill me with my own emotions? Because it seems like that’s what she’s trying to do. She’s clearly also trying to break my brain, because now we’re adding a new time element to the story, where we’ve gone back in Kang Chul’s timeline but forward in Yeon-joo’s, and we have absolutely no idea what the rules are for messing with time in the manhwa world. Is it like amnesia? Could something trigger a past-future memory? And what’s to keep Kang Chul from doing the same thing all over again, if it’s already in his nature to ask all those questions and become self-aware?
Now I see why it felt like we’d zoomed through an entire drama in the first six episodes, and Episodes 7 and 8 turned out to be an interlude in fantasyland—because now we’re starting all over again. Though to what end is anybody’s guess. I feel like we’re embarking on a behavioral experiment, to see if our characters will make the same choices all over again. And if so, is that predetermination, or free will? Because if Kang Chul is in danger, will Yeon-joo really be able to stop herself from saving him? And if she already saved him on the roof, what’s to keep him from looking for her and writing her character into the manhwa like last time?
This is such a cruel story turn for Yeon-joo, but I don’t mind the romantic angst that we get in return, because this is the type of amnesia arc that I actually like, where you get to anticipate the characters falling in love a second time. And it can be sweet rather than angsty, a la I Hear Your Voice, so that makes me feel slightly better about Yeon-joo having to be the only one who knows how good they could’ve had it. Slightly. And plotwise, there’s even more at stake because we don’t know what the ripple effect will be if Kang Chul does fall in love with her again and suddenly remembers things from the first timeline. Bah, are we going to have to make parallel timeline charts? I didn’t really anticipate homework. Time-bending really does a number on me.
It’s time for Dad to get involved, that’s for sure, though I don’t know if he has much choice in the matter after No-Face kidnapped him. But can he undo the damage that ten years of lazy writing and bad character motivation has done? I guess that’s what retconning is for. I’m amused that even the killer is having an existential crisis, because it makes him seem more human and relatable, despite not having a face. Though that still doesn’t explain why the hell he gets speech bubbles even in the real world. There are a lot of reasons to suspect that Yeon-joo’s world isn’t even the real world, but that one is extra fishy if you ask me. Also, how come the rules change in every episode?! How’s a watcher supposed to know what danger lurks around the next act break with the rules always shifting like sand? It’s stressful!
It’s an interesting conundrum to wish that fate would prevail and draw Kang Chul and Yeon-joo back to each other, while also hoping that they can rise above their predetermined fates. When Kang Chul just gave up his free will in order to save everyone around him, it was crushing—more than him giving up his love—because he’d come to understand how utterly pointless his entire existence was, and yet was willing to just go back to that endless hamster wheel knowingly. Part of it felt like the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect the people he loves, and part of it felt like defeat, because he’d seen the outer limits of his world and how much damage going outside your predetermined path could do. I just wish he’d been more sympathetic to the fact that Yeon-joo now has to return to her normal life being the only one to remember their love. Okay, so Su-bong might remember. What would we do without you, Su-bong?!